Tuition

Back from the big NALP conference, back from Seattle, happy to be back in New York City. The five boroughs came up a lot at the conference thanks to the big move by Brooklyn Law School to cut tuition by 15% next year.

If I may summarize the reactions from other schools about Brooklyn’s cut (I’m paraphrasing):

  • F**k those motherf**kers. It’s still super-expensive. Go STATE!
  • Actually my school did something very similar. [Elie explains why their school is not similar.] Well, that’s just your opinion, man.
  • Can somebody wake me up when Yale does it?

I expected that other schools would be a little annoyed with Brooklyn. Schools are already facing a financial crunch given the sharp drop in new law students; not many want to take on the additional financial burden of across the board rate reductions. I recently appeared on CNBC with Brooklyn Law Dean Nick Allard, and he explained that Brooklyn Law sold off some of its capital assets to afford this. I noted that not every school is in the position to do that.

But I didn’t expect some prospective Brooklyn Law students to also bitch about the reduction. I guess when you expect dumber people to subsidize your education, having that taken away from you is jarring…

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As we mentioned in Morning Docket, one New York law school just decided to cut its yearly tuition by a whole lot — 15 percent, actually. That’s right: a top 100 law school is reducing its tuition, across the board, in a move that will take it from being the second-most expensive private law school in New York City to being the cheapest of its kind.

Of course, by “cheapest,” what we really mean is “still prohibitively expensive,” but at least it’s a step in the right direction. Perhaps this is a trend in the making for the rest of New York City’s law schools.

So, which law school is helping its students take on a little less debt?

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* The federal judiciary is hiring for staff and public defender positions lost during the government’s sequestration throughout the better part of last year. Ready, aim, fire those résumés! [Legal Times]

* New York Biglaw firms always manage to find their way to the top of the Am Law 100 rankings. When all’s said and done, being so close to Wall Street definitely has its perks. [Bloomberg Businessweek]

* Absolutely no one should be alarmed about the fact that Kasowitz Benson’s profits per partner have dropped by 15 percent — well, no one but the equity partners, that is. Have fun with that. [Am Law Daily]

* The managing partner of Jacoby & Meyers is worried people will think his personal injury firm is going under, not Jacoby & Meyers Bankruptcy. Either way, those commercials won’t die. [New York Law Journal]

* A professor at George Mason University Law was pepper sprayed IN THE FAAAAAACE by an unknown assailant in his classroom yesterday afternoon. We’ll obvious have more on this story later. [ARLNow]

* La Verne is the first law school to offer flat-rate tuition. There will be no scholarships and no discounts. Students will pay $25K/year, nothing more, nothing less. This is, dare we say, wise. [National Law Journal]

* “Passion over pension.” Mekka Don, the Weil Gotshal corporate lit attorney turned rapper, just released his first CD, and it’s all about leaving Biglaw to follow his dreams. Go buy it here (affiliate link). [MTV]

Judge Judy

* According to a confidential report from Deloitte, another major firm is set to follow in Heenan Blaikie’s footsteps within the next year. The sheer number of “sorries” after another Canadian Biglaw collapse would be simply terrifying. [Legal Post]

* Dean Demleitner of Washington & Lee Law doesn’t think its 3L reform program is to blame for its decline in rank. It’ll “take five to 10 years for the benefits of the program to become apparent.” Oh, that’s great… for the Class of 2023. [Fortune]

* Here’s another look at the U.S. News rankings. Compare Nebraska and Hofstra. One shot up in rank and tuition increased slightly. The other sank like a stone and tuition skyrocketed. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* For the first time in years, the number of LSAT test takers has increased by a whole 1.1 percent year over year. We can guarantee law schools will fight to the death to enroll those 213 students. [LSAT Blog]

* Judge Judy has never sued anyone, but now she’s suing a personal injury firm for using her picture in its ads. Damages recovered will be donated to scholarships for women. Classy lady. [New York Daily News]

* Attorney General Eric Holder has until tomorrow to decide whether the government will seek the death penalty in the case against Dzhokhar Tsaernaev. Screw his fan clubs, he deserves it. [Associated Press]

* “Those who know me know I don’t like to lose.” Good thing he didn’t. Leo Strine was unanimously confirmed as Chief Justice of Delaware’s Supreme Court. We can’t wait to see what he’ll bring to his new bench. [Reuters]

* “[N]ominal relief does not necessarily a nominal victory make.” Any day that a lawyer can secure a $1 award for his client and a $34,772 award of fees for himself is a very successful day as a lawyer. [New York Law Journal]

* The mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, was sued, and she’s blaming Chris Christie and his allies for the whole thing. When the governor found out, he had just finished bringing about world peace. [Star-Ledger]

* Kansas Law will offer in-state tuition to people near Kansas City, Missouri. It must be hurting to fill its seats to make such an offer just because the city name has Kansas in it. [Kansas City Business Journal]

* George Zimmerman’s estranged wife, Shellie, is well on her way to getting a default judgment of divorce. She may be down one dog in her life, but she still wants custody of their two pets. [Orlando Sentinel]

We know the new economics for middle-tier law schools. Applications are down, so to convince students with good test scores to come to your school, you have to offer them money. It’s the market, imperfect though it may be, at work.

So when a law school offers “full scholarships” to a number of students with strong academic credentials, don’t think that it’s doing you a favor. They’re trying to fill their seats, not trying to address the fundamental cost problem of law school. If a law school is offering “scholarships” to high-performing students, that means that the low-performing students who are paying full price are subsidizing the people in their class who are most likely to bust up the curve. Addressing the value proposition of law school involves lowering tuition for all students, not making law school free for the kids with potentially better options.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with a little price competition among law schools for those good students. If you can go to law school for free, what do you care if some of your classmates are being price-gouged?

And if you go to this law school, you might legitimately be getting an education more tailored to the real legal job market than at other schools, thus making your free education even more valuable…

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* Dewey think you should’ve signed up for the partnership contribution plan? That probably would’ve been wise. One of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s ex-service partners has been forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy thanks to a clawback suit. [Am Law Daily]

* As long as the job market for new attorneys remains laughable, law schools will continue to make moves when it comes to deep tuition cuts. Say hello to a $30K drop in sticker price, Roger Williams University Law students. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Syracuse Law’s class sizes keep getting smaller, but it was “strategically managed” — just like the new law building was financially strategically managed on the backs of alumni and their tuition. [Daily Orange]

* A trial date was set for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends who allegedly tried to cover up his role in the Boston bombings. No word yet on whether any stupid girls have set up fan clubs for them. [National Law Journal]

* The curtains are finally closing on the King of Pop’s life: Lloyd’s of London settled its insurance suit with Michael Jackson’s estate, and Conrad Murray’s involuntary manslaughter conviction was upheld. [AP]

Not the car you drove in law school.

Let me explain how this started. The American Association of Law Schools had its annual conference this weekend here in New York. On Saturday, I spoke on a panel about law school rankings with Bob Morse (U.S. News), Karen Sloan (National Law Journal), Katrina Dewey (Lawdragon), and Dimitra Kessenides (Bloomberg BNA). It was a fun and lively discussion in which we explained the different things we were trying to capture with our law school rankings, and how law school rankings are used and should be used. My plan was to cover the conference on Friday, speak on Saturday, then get drunk on Saturday night to make up for not being able to get drunk on Friday night.

But there was a huge snowstorm in NYC on Thursday night and I did not have the will to pull out my dogsled and make it to midtown on Friday morning. Instead, I followed the conference via various Twitter feeds of people who did make it. This was surprisingly effective (the internet is an amazing thing). Instead of being stuck in one room, I was following reports from many. So I was just sitting, warm and cozy in my basement, when this tweet went up:

Dean: Tuition costs not only reason grads in debt. They don’t apply for scholarships, drive nice cars. #aals2014

This isn’t the first car-related foolishness we’ve heard from defenders of law school; the former president of the ABA told law students that they should sell their cars to pay for law school. And this needs to stop. There are too many people in charge of law schools who remember tuition costs from when they went to school, which is beyond irrelevant.

Since some of these guys appear to be too addled to do the math, I’ve come up with something easier: pictures. I want you to show us what kind of car you drive in law school (or what kind of car you drove). Send us your jalopy; hell, if you have a sweet ride, send that too (subject line “Law School Car”). I would love to see if any of these cars could even put a dent in the current price of law school tuition.

Some of our Twitter followers were more than happy to start us out….

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* Judge William Pauley ruled that the NSA’s warrantless spying program is legal, noting that — if it had existed — the government could have predicted the 9/11 attacks. Good point, because intelligence agencies were in no position to figure out that there was an attack brewing without a Big Brother initiative. Oh… wait. [Huffington Post]

* On a related note, a cartoon from 1994 that predicted the NSA’s controversial programs. It’s really kind of scary…. [Slate]

* Britain’s clowns are furious that people are dressing up as clowns and trying to scare people. For their sake, let’s make sure they never hear about Pennywise. [Lowering the Bar]

* Professor Dave Hoffman evaluates the case for flat-rate tuition. [Concurring Opinions]

* The Wolf of Wall Street is about a criminal ripping off poor people. Bankers cheered at a recent showing. There is a lesson to be had there about what bankers would do if given an opportunity. [Business Insider]

* “Knockout,” a game where young boys cold-cock unsuspecting victims, is a serious issue. Nah, just kidding, it’s a crypto-racist overreaction. But at least one kid was stupid enough to try it and then tell a cop about it. Seriously. [Gawker]

Linear extrapolations are widely suspected of being unreliable, but maybe not widely enough. Stated differently, it’s a category error to engage in static, not dynamic, analysis. Stated yet differently, the interesting challenge is almost never to ask, “What can we do to solve this problem?” but instead, “What happens after we take this approach to solving the problem?”

Here’s an example. A long-running contributor to structural disequilibrium in the metropolitan New York traffic congestion pattern is that bridges across the East River are toll-free, whereas almost all other bridges and tunnels in the area carry tolls as high as $12 one-way. Not surprisingly, the East River bridges are chronically congested and “over capacity.” (The experts’ knowing diagnosis that they’re “over capacity” always amuses me; drivers are paying in time, not money: The “capacity” of the bridges is what it always has been.) So periodically proposals are floated to impose tolls on these bridges, with seemingly reliable projections of how much revenue would be collected based on today’s vehicle traffic multiplied by the average toll.

This is a linear extrapolation, a static analysis, and it’s wrong. It overlooks the question, “How will people alter their behavior in light of the tolls?” Obviously, the answer is that some will carpool, some will take mass transit, some will telecommute more often, some will use different combinations of bridges and tunnels. Whatever happens, toll revenue will fall short of {[today's traffic volume] x [proposed toll]}.

Now, in law school land, we have a stunning example of market dynamics at work….

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